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Cuomo vetoes bill on school district pension costs, which Ritchie, Griffo and Russell had voted to approve


Calling it a financial boondoggle that could lead to higher taxes, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed school districts to cover pension costs by borrowing money.

North country lawmakers, including state Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, voted to approve the measure, arguing that it would have provided flexibility to school districts’ floundering finances.

“I am OK with trying to provide more flexibility to localities and allowing them to find ways to address their upcoming pension issues,” Mrs. Russell said before the veto was issued. “Pension costs are expected to have a spike in the next couple of years. It’s just basic numbers.”

The plan came under fire over worries that financing the bonds would end up costing taxpayers in the future; in addition, the bonds wouldn’t be subject to a public vote and would be exempt from the state’s newly established property tax cap.

“Families across the state have been forced to cut back and live within their means and governments and school districts must do the same,” Mr. Cuomo said in a news release Wednesday. “New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation and this veto sends a strong message that we will not put today’s tough decisions on tomorrow’s taxpayers.”

Through a spokesman, Mrs. Ritchie said that her vote of approval was an attempt to find ways to help school districts.

And Mr. Griffo said it was only fair, considering that municipalities already have the power to borrow money.

“Once it was given to one, I don’t see how you can deny another,” Mr. Griffo said before the veto was issued.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, was the delegation’s lone dissenter.

“You’re just pushing the debt down,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “I didn’t like it.”

The state’s teachers’ union expressed dismay about Mr. Cuomo’s veto.

“In light of the devastating tax cap adopted last month, it would have been wiser to support the needs of school districts, not further restrict their options,” Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, said in a news release.

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